Making electric cars accessible to more people requires developing an ecosystem that would help drivers charge, and occasionally get to destinations that might not yet be ideal for an electric car—like a long road trip.
To bridge those gaps for buyers of its upcoming EQC and other electric cars to follow, Mercedes-Benz announced last week that it will team up with BMW to provide those services.
BMW launched several such services under its X-Now umbrella when it first launched the BMW i3 electric car starting in 2014: Drive Now for car sharing in some European Cities, ReachNow for car sharing and ride hailing in the U.S. (started in 2016), and ChargeNow for charging.
The rival companies have now joined forces to operate those services, with the exclusion of DriveNow, and to expand them.
They have jointly invested more than $1.1 billion (1 billion euros) into the project, and rebranded the services in all-caps. The project wraps in several existing companies that each brand owned around the world, such as Car2Go in the U.S., Kapten in France, and Beat in Mexico, The services include:
- ReachNow in offers an app that will let BMW and Mercedes electric-car drivers in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, access car-sharing and ride hailing services, and even bike rentals to get to their final destination, for example if they have to charge someplace that is too far to walk in a city. You can even find a bus or trolley.
- ChargeNow is an integrated system to find and pay for available and compatible chargers and operates in 25 countries.
- ParkNow helps users find, reserve, and pay for parking, for example in city garages. Mercedes cites studies showing that 30 percent of urban traffic comes from drivers looking for parking.
- FreeNow includes services like chauffeur-driven ride-sharing in France.
- ShareNow incorporates similar services.
"Ultimately, we want to offer our customers as many options as possible for getting from A to B. In short, this is about driving, riding or being driven," said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, in a statement announcing the joint venture.
In an unrelated survey published by Volvo and the Harris polling organization on Tuesday, 32 percent of respondents said such a manufacturer sponsored car-sharing program would increase the likelihood that they would buy an electric car. Volvo sells a one-year subscription program for its XC40 small SUV that has proven more popular than dealers can accommodate, and has indicated it plans a similar program for its first electric car, the Polestar 2, unveiled on Wednesday.
After four years of effort from BMW, it seems that the confluence of car-sharing programs and electric cars may finally be coming together.
The companies also announced on Thursday that they will also form a partnership to develop self-driving car technology.